Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Roman Polanski's Life Vs. The Life He Could Have Had

Roman Polanski, the film director, was recently arrested in Switzerland on an outstanding warrant issued in California after he fled the country before he could be sentenced for the crime to which he'd pled guilty, having sex with an underage girl.

Maybe you heard about it; everyone's talking about it.

The Smoking Gun has a transcript of his plea:

On August 8, 1977 Polanski appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court and copped to a felony count of unlawful sexual intercourse. As seen in the below transcript, he acknowledged being aware that the victim was 13 at the time of their March 1977 encounter in a Mulholland Drive home owned by actor Jack Nicholson. Polanski, now 77, fled the country before being sentenced, fearful that he would be imprisoned by Judge Laurence Rittenband, the jurist before whom he entered his guilty plea.

It's interesting to note on pages 15-16 of the plea transcript, the Judge specifically informs Polanski that the court is not bound by the terms of the plea agreement, regarding the sentencing.

Before you do so, however, I must advise the defendant, under Section 1192.5 of the Penal Code, that the approval of the court to the plea is not binding on the Court, that the Court may, at the time set for hearing on the application for probation or pronouncement of judgment, withdraw its approval, in light of further consideration of the matter; and three, in such case, the defendant shall be permitted to withdraw his plea, if he desires to do so.

Polanski then pleads guilty, to having sex with a 13 year-old girl. Later, when he discovered the judge actually meant what he said about maybe withdrawing its approval of the plea agreement, he left the country. He's continued to make films, winning an Oscar for directing "The Pianist," and working with actors like Johnny Depp, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, and Harrison Ford. He's lived in France and Switzerland, with his astonishingly beautiful wife.

It's been a luxe life on the lam for movie director Roman Polanski.

Most fugitives assume fake identities and hide out in flophouses, but since fleeing from a rape charge in California in 1978, Polanski has lived openly in France - regularly shuttling from his Paris penthouse to a swank Swiss hideaway.

He has not lived a life common to those who admit to committing sex crimes with minors, especially not now.

Compare his lot to that of a group of homeless sex offenders in Georgia:

Nine homeless sex offenders directed to live in the woods behind a suburban Atlanta office park have been ordered to move and are scrambling to find new places to go.

The sex offenders were searching for a new place to set up their tents Tuesday after state authorities told them they had to leave the area.

They had been directed to the spot by probation officers who said it was a location of last resort for the sex offenders barred from living in many areas by one of the nation's toughest sex offender policies.

William Hawkins is a 34-year-old who has lived in the camp for about two weeks and says he's not sure where he'll move. He says he'll be arrested again if he has nowhere to go.
The muddy camp on the outskirts of prosperous Cobb County is an unintended consequence of Georgia law, which bans the state's 16,000 sex offenders from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, parks and other spots where children gather.
For Hawkins, it feels like an extension of his prison time.

The former truck driver has been on the registry since he was convicted of attempted sexual battery of a 12-year-old in 1991 when he was 15. He said after he emerged from his latest stint behind bars without a place to live, he was directed to the forest despite pleas from his wife to allow him to live at the couple's home in Swords Creek, Va.

"I don't understand how the state gets away with it," Mindy Hawkins said from her home in Virginia. "This is ridiculous — especially when he has a family, a home, a support system here. It's inhumane."

Her husband had tried to make the meager outpost feel as much like home as possible as he waits for his probation to end early next year. Now he is scrambling to find another place to pitch his tent in the next 24 hours.

"I don't know where I'm going to go," Hawkins said. "And if I don't have anywhere to go, they will re-arrest me."

Or the men forced to live under a bridge in Miami:

Ten months later, [Juan] Martin is still under the bridge, and the number of men living with him has doubled. They have different backgrounds but one thing in common: They are all convicted sex offenders. Fourteen men, ranging in age from 30 to 83, call this place home. Some sleep in cars among the pilings, others in grimy Wal-Mart tents wedged beneath the bridge. Martin, who spent two years in jail after being convicted of exposing himself to a 16-year-old girl when he was 19 or 20 (a crime he says he didn't commit), no longer has to wear the black GPS monitoring device that many of his neighbors do. He finished his five-year probation in 2006, but he can't find a place to live that complies with the county's residency laws. So Martin is forced to live here—in a colony under an overpass where the amenities include a generator, a composting toilet, and a workout area with a bench and free weights—indefinitely, because he and the other men were ordered here by law-enforcement authorities.

These stringent restrictions on the movements of convicted sex offenders have come into existence since Polanski made his plea and then skipped out of the country. Polanski wouldn't have had to deal with them. But I find it interesting that there has been such an outpouring of sympathy for the man who's divided his time between a penthouse apartment in Paris, and a chalet in Switzerland, but there is no petition being circulated to protest the treatment of the man who served his time in prison, served out all his probation, and still can't get out from under the bridge in Miami.

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